Art Review: Harold Garde at Harlow makes strong case for the here and now
Sep 3, 2014
ART REVIEW [Excerpted for reprint on this website]
Featuring the paintings of Harold Garde, “Choosings” is an exhibition that matches this kind of existential self-examination in painting with a measure of wisdom and a pinch of brushy bravado. It is a decidedly modernist exhibition that makes a compelling case that artistic modernism and its goal of unmediated connection to the viewer cannot be thrown off by theoretical musings or ironical commentary.
Garde’s paintings most clearly use imagery, but in a way that unquestionably shuns the pictorial space of photography or landscape painting. Painting, for Garde, is not a physical realm mirroring ours; it is a place for ideas. A teapot is made gigantic and pushed to the edges of a large canvas, for example. Its black outlines harken to drawing and the conventions of painting, while the surface of the canvas writhes with brushy color unconcerned with the rendering of the teapot or its volumes, textures, colors or interactions with light.
Garde’s kimono painting is not legible as a kimono – until you read the title. Instead, the artist brings his idea of design and art into a shared space with the kimono so that it’s unclear which is creating which. This koan-like logic serves his point perfectly. It is not, after all, a statement. It’s a question. And it is precisely this indeterminate quality that drives Garde’s brand of Modernist painting: Whose experience is this? The painter’s or the viewer’s? Is it an image of a kimono or an artist’s meditation on a kimono?
The list of questions goes on, but what matters is that Garde lets the viewer decide. As far as I am concerned, when I am looking at that painting, it’s mine – not Garde’s or anyone else’s. And I enjoy that experience. Someone else, however, might be impressed by Garde’s reputation and professional accomplishment and prefer to be with him (metaphorically) as they stand there.
“Choosings” is not only a curatorial triumph, but it’s an extraordinary opportunity to take in a pervasive but fugitive quality of contemporary painting.
Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. Contact him at: [email protected]